London’s Catholics Report on Their Pastoral Needs and Gifts

January 8, 2014

A group representing LGBT Catholics in London, England, sent a report to the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales just before Christmas, which was their assessment of pastoral outreach to LGBT Catholics in the city’s Archdiocese of Westminster.

The LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council  wrote to Elizabeth Davies, Marriage and Family Life Project Officer at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, as a response to the Conference’s request for feedback from the laity in advance of the World Synod on Marriage and Family Life at the Vatican later this year.

The LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council used to be known as the Soho Masses Pastoral Council.  Their name was changed when their bi-monthly Mass was moved from London’s Soho neighborhood to the Mayfair neighborhood.

The group identified four areas of concern.  Below are excerpted highlights from the letter:

1) Parish life:

“In the vast majority of Catholic parishes in the UK there is no dedicated pastoral care of LGBT Catholics. Typical Catholic parishes are very unlikely to mention any pastoral care in the parish newsletter, or even to recognise the needs of LGBT Catholics as a group. By contrast, there are often groups dedicated to various language and ethnic groups, Justice and Peace, Mother and Children groups, etc., all of which is laudable. The effect on the ordinary LGBT Catholic is to feel largely invisible and unrecognised at best, or at worst to feel excluded, merely the subject of distant, hierarchical pronouncements regarding LGBT people as if they do not belong to the community of the faithful. On a day to day basis, in the parish, there is fear of visibly recognising and catering pastorally to LGBT Catholic people.”

2) Personal harm caused by church language:

“The Church teaching on LGBT Catholics with the use of terms such as “objectively disordered” together with a widespread lack of pastoral care has made many LGBT Catholics feel deeply unwelcome in the Catholic church in which they were brought up and leads in many cases to feelings of deep distress. It is clearly wrong that God’s baptised find themselves in such in an isolated position, making it so much more difficult to practise their faith on their own, away from a supporting and nurturing community. This leads in many cases to suicide, depression and mental, physical and emotional problems. This is a very grave responsibility for the bishops to address. We therefore ask that a comprehensive pastoral process be developed to ensure that LGBT Catholics are supported as much as possible in their faith and life journey, which is a prime responsibility of the Church. ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40) “

3) The need for dialogue and healing:

“There needs to be a deep process of dialogue and listening between the hierarchy and the laity. This questionnaire is one attempt to do this and we applaud it. However, unless it is accompanied by a lived experience at the parish and diocesan level between laity, priests and bishops, it will not bear as much fruit as it can. There are many wounds to heal within the Church, as Pope Francis has said, and we wish to deepen the process that LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council has started with the support of the Archdiocese of Westminster, and support this development at a national level.”

4) Steadfastness as LGBT Catholics:

 “We believe that God’s grace continues to support LGBT Catholics in their faith journey, despite the many obstacles, lack of support and ignorance that many of us experience in our local churches. In our community, we have a number of people from other Christian denominations interested in becoming Catholics. Despite the vitriol sometimes levelled at LGBT people by some members of the Catholic hierarchy, we still witness other LGBT Christians being drawn to become Catholics. We believe that this is a sign from God that He does indeed call all to believe and live with Him in community.”

You can read the entire text of the letter here.

Though written from just one nation, I think this document expresses very succinctly many of  the longings of LGBT Catholics world-wide.  I am grateful for our friends in London for putting together such a pointed and poignant text, and for speaking their truth to the hierarchy.  May their words soften hearts, open minds, and encourage leaders to seek further information and testimony from LGBT people.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


U.S. Catholic Bishops Invited to New Dialogue on LGBT Issues

November 14, 2013

Equally Blessed LogoThe U.S. Catholic bishops have been invited to open a new and more positive chapter in their relationships with LGBT Catholics and and their supporters.  The invitation came in the form of a letter from the leaders of Equally Blessed, a coalition of four national Catholic organizations (Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry) that work for justice and equality for LGBT people.

The letter, addressed to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who have been meeting in Baltimore this week, invites the church’s leaders to put past events behind them and start a forward-thinking dialogue with LGBT people and supporters. The Equally Blessed leaders wrote:

“Now is the time for us all to adopt a new approach in dealing with issues of human sexuality, especially in dealing with LGBT people, as Pope Francis seems to be calling us to do. It will take time to rebuild trust between members of the Conference and those who have been damaged by its past policies. But, if Jesus came that we all might be one, then healing must begin. So we implore you to sit down with us, to listen to voices from the margins of the Church, and to speak with us candidly about your own concerns. We offer an outstretched hand of invitation.”

The letter writers suggested several areas of common-ground where the bishops can collaborate with them:

“The bishops and LGBT Catholics and their allies have many opportunities to show where our Church is united in its commitment to the dignity of the human person. The bishops have many opportunities to reach out to LGBT persons without violating Church teaching. The USCCB could issue an unambiguous statement declaring that bullying children because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity is unacceptable. Parishes and diocesan offices could be encouraged to make concerted efforts to include LGBT people in their outreach ministries and other agendas.  The Church could make an effort to create pastorally sensitive ministries that would deal with the problem of LGBT youth homelessness and suicide. Together, we are sure we can find other ways to send out positive and mercy-filled messages.”

The Equally Blessed leaders stressed that this is an opportune time for such a dialogue:

“At this pivotal moment in the life of our church, we, the leaders of the Equally Blessed coalition, invite you into a deeper relationship with LGBT Catholics, their families and their friends. We seek, first of all, simple conversation with you. Rather than speaking about LGBT people, or, worse yet, against LGBT people, we urge you to sit down and speak with LGBT people. We ask you to convene local and national conversations in which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, their families and their friends can tell you about their faith and their commitment to the Church.  The spirit of respect and openness that these conversations could foster would be balm on the wounds of LGBT Catholics and those who love them.”

Invoking the spirit of the new papacy, the LGBT equality leaders stressed that it’s time for a different way for the bishops to approach the topic of sexuality:

“At a time when Pope Francis is urging the church to move beyond what he calls its “obsession” with sexual issues, we, faithful Catholics committed to equality and justice within the Church we love, pray that you will hear our voices and respond with mercy.”

The letter was signed by the following organizational representatives:  Call To Action: Jim FitzGerald, Executive Director; DignityUSA: Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director; Fortunate Families: Casey Lopata, Co-Founder, Deb Word, President; New Ways Ministry: Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


British Catholic Leaders Support Marriage Equality Legislation

August 13, 2012

The Times of London, England, has published a letter to the editor today from 27 prominent British Catholics expressing support for the United Kingdom’s proposed legislation to legalize same-gender marriage.  (It is not possible to link to the text on the Times’ website because a subscription is required to access letters to the editor.)

The 27 signatories include James Alison (theologian & priest), Tina Beattie (theologian), Mary Grey (theologian), Bernard Lynch (priest), Martin Pendergast (Chair, Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality).

The text of the letter reads:

“Sir,  Not all Catholics share their hierarchy’s stated views against proposals to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples. Nevertheless, the submission by the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales  to the Government’s equal civil marriage consultation indicates a growing understanding about legislating for same-sex unions, compared with its 2003 position, when it firmly opposed civil partnerships.

“It seems  to us, as Catholic laity, theologians and clergy, important to uphold some key pastoral care principles used by the Catholic Church in England & Wales. Its 1979 guidelines stated that the Church has a serious responsibility to work towards the elimination of any injustices perpetrated on homosexuals by society.

“In 1997 Cardinal Hume wrote that love between two persons, whether of the same sex, or of a different sex, is to be treasured and respected. This respect demands that such loving relationships be afforded social recognition according to social justice principles. He proposed three criteria for considering issues of social policy: are there reasonable grounds for judging that the institution of marriage and the family could, and would be undermined by a change in law? Would society’s rejection of a proposed change be more harmful to the common good than the acceptance of such a change? Does a person’s sexual orientation or activity constitute, in specific circumstances, a sufficient reason for treating that person in any way differently from other citizens? We suggest that it is perfectly proper for Catholics, using fully informed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.”

The full list of signers:

James Alison, Theologian & priest
Ruby Almeida, Chair of Quest (LGBT Catholics)
Tina Beattie, Theologian  
Mike Castelli, Educationalist
Mark Dowd, Journalist
Michael Egan, Chair, Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement
Maria ExallChair, Trade Unions Congress LGBT Committee
John Falcone, Theologian
Eileen Fitzpatrick, Educationalist
Kieran Fitszimons, Priest
Mary Grey, Theologian
Kevin Kelly, Theologian & priest
Ted Le Riche, Retired educationalist
Bernard Lynch, Priest
Gerard Loughlin, Theologian
Francis McDonagh, Lay-person
Patrick McLoughlin, Priest
Anthony Maggs, Priest
Lorraine Milford, Lay-person
Frank Nally, Priest                                                                                                                                                                                                       Martin Pendergast, Chair, Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality                                                                                         Sophie Stanes, Lay-person                                                                                                                                                                                       Joe Stanley, Lay-person                                                                                                                                                                                   Valerie Stroud, Chair, Catholics for a Changing Church                                                                                                                                Terry Weldon, Editor, Queering the Church                                                                                                                                            Matias Wibowo, Lay-person                                                                                                                                                                           Deborah Woodman, Clinical Psychologist

Congratulations and many thanks for this thoughtful piece.  Let’s hope and pray that Catholic leaders in other countries, particularly the United States, will speak out as clearly and forthrightly.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 891 other followers